The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has confirmed in the case of Barton v Royal Borough of Greenwich, that an act which is not protected by the whistleblowing legislation cannot become protected by linking it to another act.
Under the Public Interest Disclosure Act (the “Whistleblowing Act”) employees are protected from being dismissed or subjected to some other detriment for making a “protected disclosure”. Whether an act amounts to a protected disclosure involves a two-stage test. First there must be a “qualifying” disclosure - a disclosure of specific facts or information. Secondly, the disclosure must be made in good faith and with the reasonable belief that the employer has committed a criminal offence or has failed to comply with a legal obligation.
Here, Mr Barton was employed by the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Mr Barton received a complaint from a colleague that his manager had forwarded “hundreds” of emails to her personal email account. The colleague believed that those emails contained his personal data and that the emails were not secure. Without seeking to establish the accuracy of this information, Mr Barton contacted the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to inform them about alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act (DPA).